Everything I know about New Jersey tennis clubs comes from an Amazon show called Red Oaks. So when I heard that Chef David Burke was bringing a restaurant concept to Essex County’s 140-year-old Orange Lawn Tennis Club, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
You may recognize the chef, or rather his culinary point of view, from other local establishments including VENTANAS at Fort Lee’s The Modern or Drifthouse in Sea Bright. His latest venture, David Burke at Orange Lawn, is a hybrid of sorts when it comes to club restaurants—not only opening itself to members, but to the public as well.
The Orange Lawn property underwent an extensive renovation in the past year, and with the addition of Burke as executive chef now includes an on-site garden. Its bounty is incorporated into both the food and drink offerings—from lemon verbena and pineapple sage to heirloom tomatoes, kale and ramps.
Diners can expect to see some signature offerings from Chef David Burke including his clothesline bacon, octopus and chorizo kebabs and lobster dumplings. During my recent visit, a Tuesday night in early August, they were running their “ABC” event in the lounge—where they offer live acoustic music, burgers (or any two courses of your choosing) and a complimentary cocktail.
The “ABC” menu, in comparison the full menu in the restaurant’s main dining area features lighter fare—in line with the tennis club atmosphere. Guacamole is served with broccoli for dipping, there’s also a roasted corn salad with marinated mushrooms and shaved parmesan and a market salad with citrus vinaigrette. The second course options include a crispy chicken “sangwich,” avocado toast with cedar plank salmon or a salt-aged cheeseburger—which I opted for. A special (and delicious) touch was the crispy English muffin-style bun and a pickle spear on top for garnish.
The cocktails take cues from Burke’s savory, farm-fresh dishes by utilizing lots of fresh herbs and fruits. Guests will find drinks that are infused with spirits from local vendors as well including NJ’s Asbury Park Distilling Co. and VDKA 6100. I sipped on the Garden Party—a mix of gin, lemon, ginger, lavender and violet which was every bit as fragrant and refreshing as it sounds.
Chef David Burke is also known for his wildly creative desserts and the sweets at Orange Lawn don’t disappoint. Think a “can of donuts” made to mimic a sleeve of tennis balls; his famous cheesecake lollipop tree; and a warm chocolate cake tin with Heath bar crispies, caramel, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. While there was not a bad bite to be had, there’s still much more on the horizon for the Orange Lawn eatery which only opened its doors to the public this past May.